False FIR against 13 tribals for demanding land rights under FRA in Jammu & Kashmir

On 17 September 2021, false FIR was lodged against 13 tribals by the Forest Department for demanding land pattaunder the Forest Rights Act at Raiyar village in Budgam district in Jammu and Kashmir on 17 September 2021. These 13 tribals have been booked under section 379 (Punishment for theft), 427 (Mischief causing damage to the amount of fifty rupees) of Indian Penal Court (IPC). All the 13 people have been accused of trespassing the forest land and damaging the fence erected by the forest department at Raiyar village of central Kashmir’s Budgam district.

The Kashmir Observer reported about this in a report titled “13 Tribals Booked For Attempted Land Grab in Budgam” dated 30 September 2021 (https://kashmirobserver.net/2021/09/30/13-tribals-booked-for-attempting-land-grab/)

Kashmir Observer reported that Ravinder Singh, Station House Officer (SHO) of Khanshaib police station in Budgam district confirmed that an FIR has been registered on the request of Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) of Pir Panjal Division, Budgam, Muhammad Ashraf Katoo, against these 13 tribals for allegedly trespassing into the forest land and stealing fencing of the forest department in an attempt to encroach the land.

However, the victims have refuted the allegations and stated that they have been wrongly criminalized for demanding implementation of the Forest Rights Act. It is pertinent to mention that the Jammu and Kashmir Administration has recently decided to implement the Forest Rights Act, 2006.

One of the victims, Abdul Majid Deenda, a resident of Riyar village, told Kashmir Observer that they had gone to the office of the DFO to demand land rights under the Forest Rights Act.Jehangir Ahmad Deenda, Vice Chairman of Forest Rights Act Committee accused forest officials of demanding a bribe for verifying their documents for the implementation of FRA. He alleged that when the applicants refused to pay bribes, the forest department lodged an FIR against them saying that they stole the fencing of the forest department.

The action of the forest department constitutes an “atrocity” as defined under Section 3(1) of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. Section 3(1)(p) states that whoever not being SC/ST “institutes false, malicious or vexatious suit or criminal or other legal proceedings against a member of a Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe” is a punishable offence under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. 

The Indigenous Rights Advocacy Centre (IRAC) has sought the immediate intervention of the National Human Rights Commission over the issue.

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